The federal government will today make an “important announcement” on the overdose crisis with British Columbia

The federal government is set to make what it calls a “significant announcement” today with the government of British Columbia on the overdose crisis.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett is to join her provincial counterpart, Sheila Malcolmson, in Vancouver to provide details on what an advisory says is a public health approach focused on harm reduction and saving lives.

The announcement is expected to be linked to British Columbia’s request for an exemption from Canada’s drug laws to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use by people aged 19 and over.

The province became the first in the country last November to seek an exemption aimed at eliminating criminal penalties and reducing the stigma associated with substance use.

WATCH | After record overdose deaths, British Columbia has decided to tackle the opioid crisis:

British Columbia determined to tackle opioid crisis after record overdose deaths in 2021

After more than 2,200 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2021, British Columbia remains committed to tackling the opioid crisis, even in the face of stronger illicit drugs and long waits for treatment.

At the time, Malcolmson said fear and shame were preventing people from seeking potentially life-saving care in a province that declared a public health emergency in 2016 for a record number of opioid-related deaths.

In April, she said Health Canada’s update on the province’s request suggested she would consider a lower threshold than that requested by the province, which wanted a cumulative 4.5 grams for opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Deaths from opioid overdoses hit record highs in British Columbia last year, rising during the pandemic. British Columbia reported 2,224 suspected overdose deaths in 2021.

Between January and September of last year, at least 5,368 Canadians died of “apparent opioid toxicity,” the classification used by the Public Health Agency of Canada.